Uranium-235

Our new English teacher wore corduroy and a Polio limp.
His hair curled over his shirt collar. His flares hung loose
on his wasted shin, inciting an uneasy silence. He was unlike
the others. I forget his name as he didn’t last.
Our first English lesson was unlike the others.
Our pubescent class took turns reading aloud
a poem by Toge Sankichi, a survivor
of Hiroshima. Can we forget that flash?
We learned about the four minute warning.
We heard an air raid siren, oscillating ice
through our veins. Seek cover immediately.
We were told to write how we would spend

our last four minutes.
This is not a test.
I descended stone stairs
to a cold, dark place.

 

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Photograph by the author